Vector transparency effects (glows, sparkles, light rays, etc) are very popular right now, however they can be extremely tricky to work with. Here are some important things to keep in mind when working with this type of illustration:


1. You need vector software to use these files.

The gray ‘checkerboard’ background, which mimics the transparent background in Photoshop files, is built directly into the vector file and will need to be removed.

2. These files can only be opened and edited in Adobe Illustrator®.

  • Programs such as CorelDRAW, Affinity Designer or Inkscape cannot open or edit these effects.

3. Transparencies look great in RGB but very rarely convert well into CMYK.

  • These files are built in the RGB color space as it best displays transparencies and complex shading effects.
  • If you try to convert the file to CMYK for printing, you’ll see color shifts, banding, and other issues.
  • If your project is destined for print then you should avoid transparencies entirely.

4. Illustrators construct their files in a wide variety of ways.

  • While we’re covering common ways to edit these files, we can’t guarantee that the file you purchase will be built in the same way.

How to remove the dreaded ‘checkerboard’ background

  1. Open your ‘Layers’ palette (Window > Layers). If the checkerboard is on its own layer, select and delete it by clicking ‘Delete Layer’ from the top right hand flyaway menu. If the checkerboard isn’t on its own layer, try clicking directly on the checkerboard itself. If you can select it, simply hit ‘delete’ on your keyboard. However if you can’t click to select anything in the file, try the following:
  2. Check if there’s a lock icon on the layer. If there is, click on it to unlock.
  3. Delete any Clipping Masks used by right-clicking on the file and choosing ‘Release Clipping Mask’. If you still can’t click on the checkerboard, we’ll need to locate it in the Layers palette.
  4. Click on the ‘>’ symbol next to the Layer name to expand the layer into its component shapes.
  5. Click on the circle icon next to each layer’s name until the checkerboard is selected, then delete it by dragging the layer onto the trash icon.

How to place a transparency over your image

Now that you’ve deleted the background checkerboard, you can place your own image behind the transparency.

  • Create a new layer and click-drag it so it is underneath the transparent shapes.
  • Place your artwork onto this new layer.
  • Save your file in your required format.